Kansas volleyball prepares for Sunflower Showdown

10_volleyball_gmullinix-13

George Mullinix/KANSAN

The No. 24 Jayhawks (19-6, 9-3) had the midweek bye, after they lost to No. 1 ranked Texas on Nov. 9, to be prepared for the final segment of the Sunflower Showdown against the Kansas State Wildcats (16-8, 4-7) on Saturday at the sold-out Horejsi Athletic Center.

On Nov. 9, four Jayhawks ended the match with double digit kills against a great blocking Texas team, that averages almost three blocks per game. The girls hit well and they were aggressive, but the team made some crucial errors said head coach Ray Bechard.

“We were pretty relentless, but if we did a better job via serve or pass that game could have been a different outcome,” Bechard said.

Bechard was talking about the five serving errors, three serve-receive errors and the three aces the Jayhawks allowed. The Jayhawks made a lot of defensive errors, but the offensive game was working. Redshirt senior outside hitter Catherine Carmichael and her team high of 13 kills kept the game close throughout the match, however the 25 Texas blocks were too much for the Jayhawks.

Carmichael hasn’t played against the Kansas State Wildcats this season. When the in-state rivals met for the first time on Oct. 2, sophomore outside hitter Tiana Dockery, who led the team in hitting attempts against Kansas State, started instead of Carmichael.

“We have three great pin players in Dockery, McClinton and Carmichael that we have a lot of confidence in,” Bechard said. “For a while it was Dockery carrying the load, then McClinton and now Cathy (Carmichael) has just been playing at a nice level…When she has been playing well, that elevates Dockery and McClinton too.”

Dockery, who was voted to the 2012 Big 12 Conference All-Freshman team, hasn’t started a game since Carmichael has emerged as the starter on Oct. 19. Before Oct.19, the reason why Carmichael didn’t play wasn’t because she was performing poorly, instead Dockery and McClinton were simply playing better volleyball, said Bechard.

“It was McClinton and Dockery playing at a high level and not that Cathy [Carmichael] was bad,” Bechard said. “In volleyball, you get into a certain rhythm and you get into an offensive rhythm and when it’s going well you leave it.”

Since becoming the starter after the West Virginia match on Oct. 19, Carmichael shows the Big 12 Conference that she can play. Carmichael is one of the most dominating outside blockers in the Big 12 Conference, said Bechard.

Kansas is third in the Big 12 Conference averaging 2.61 blocks per set. Carmichael is sixth on the team with 26 blocks this season. Since Oct. 19, Carmichael is averaging .43 blocks per set, which is fourth on the team.

Carmichael was held to only two blocks against Texas.

“She is playing comfortable,” Bechard said. “She senses that this is her last shot at this and she obviously has been attacking at a high level and she is a physical presence blocking too.”

The Kansas State Wildcats are a great blocking team as well. The Wildcats are first in the Big 12 Conference by blocking almost three balls per set.

On Oct.2, the Wildcats were out-blocked by the Jayhawks 20-18 in a 3-0 Kansas sweep in Manhattan, where Kansas State redshirt freshman setter Katie Brand led the Wildcats with five blocks.

Brand is second on the team with 93 total blocks this season, behind redshirt junior middle blocker Taylor Johnson. Johnson is averaging 1.36 blocks per set against Big 12 Conference opponents, which is first within the Big 12.

Saturday will mark the 101st time that the Kansas and Kansas State volleyball programs will square off. Kansas State leads the all-time record between the two teams 61-39.

The Jayhawks will try to avoid losing consecutive games this season at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, and the game will be available on ESPN3.com.

  • Updated Nov. 14, 2013 at 2:24 am
  • Edited by Hannah Barling